I have been a Market Gardener for 4 years, a refugee from Burundi, Africa, and have a family of 8. I lived in the refugee camp in Tanzania for 12 years without hope of life for all my generations. My family and I arrived in the USA in 2007, the land of opportunities. We lived in Beaverton, OR for two years, and moved to New Columbia in December 2009.
In April 2010, I met Wasongolo, Community Organizer at Village Gardens who also is a refugee, he asked me if I can join the Seeds of Harmony garden in New Columbia. Remembering the job I have done 16 years ago in my country of origin, I agreed to become a gardener to get fresh, and organic vegetables for my family. From there on, I started producing tomatoes and vegetables for my family from my small 12X12 foot garden. And I do remember with other gardeners we started requesting more land to produce more food, and gain an income. We started discussing the possibility to get more land.
We got our first land donated by the Martin family on Sauvie Island in 2013. For our first year, my family decreased our food expenses by 10%. For the second year 15%, third 17%, and the consumption of vegetables were increased gradually for the same amount, and income increased too. We are encouraging other refugees, and community around us to eat vegetables.
At our first Village Gardens Farmers Market, we started teaching other people in our community to eat african cultural vegetables, (amaranth, squash leaves, bean leaves, african eggplant, and other african veggies). My family does believe eating vegetables is protecting yourself against some illnesses. We are enjoying being a Village Gardens Family, we share food sometimes at pot-lucks, at our garden celebration and donate vegetables to others.
In addition, my family is getting more benefit, through Village Gardens' connection we are working with MESO, (Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon), which seeks to broaden economic opportunities for the under-served entrepreneurs. With them we started a program called IDA, a matching program. In working with them, we have found a name for our small farm, Happiness Family Farm, in memory of our daughter born in the USA named Happiness.
Also two of my children work with Food Works, a Village Gardens program for youth development. We are lucky to be in the Village Gardens Family, we do hold in high regard all the support given to us to increase health, and income and new opportunities are much appreciated. We can say, supporting Village Gardens in whatever it is doing is supporting the increase of growth in health, income, assets, and business skills for the families in New Columbia.
Prosper & Rosata